SERVES 6 TO 8 AS AN APPETIZER
Damiano loves to mix and match the traditional dishes of Italy and his potato gnocchi with a Pecorino cheese sauce is a perfect example. He uses only two ingredients, potatoes and a hint of flour and his fingers tell him when the dough is just right. Creating the dough "off the cuff" can be a daunting proposition for some cooks, especially in the gnocchi department, when so many are terrified of making lead sinkers instead of fluffy dumplings.
The best advice I can give is to go by feel, and trial and error. There are many versions of gnocchi, but potato is the most popular and is usually topped with a fresh tomato sauce but here again Damiano shows his ingenuity by making a quick sauce from Pecorino cheese and cream.
1 cup young Pecorino cheese cut into small pieces
2/3 cup heavy cream
Grinding of black pepper
6 large Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Semolina flour as needed
Potato starch as needed
Put the cheese and cream in a small saucepan and heat it until the cheese melts. Mix the sauce so it is smooth; cover it, set it aside and keep it warm while making the gnocchi.
Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover them with cold water. Bring them to a boil and cook them until they are fork tender. Drain and cool the potatoes, then peel them.
Rice the potatoes into a large bowl or mash them using a hand masher. Stir in the salt to taste.
Lightly spread a work surface with a thin layer of semolina flour. Divide the potato mixture into 4 sections and work with one at a time. Roll the potatoes under the palm of your hand on the floured surface to form a long rope about the thickness of your middle finger. Cut one small piece and drop it into a small pan of boiling water to see if it will hold together without breaking up in the water. If it holds together, cut the remaining rope into 1-inch pieces and place them in single layers on floured towels. If the dough does not hold together, remix all the potatoes with a little bit of potato starch, using 1 tablespoon at a time and testing as above until the gnocchi hold together.
Continue making more gnocchi until all the dough is used.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Gently lift the towels with the gnocchi and shake them into the boiling water. They will not take long to cook, only a minute, or until they bob to the top.
Remove them with a slotted strainer, making sure to shake off the excess water and place them on a platter.
Pour the warm sauce over the top and give the gnocchi a grinding of pepper. Serve at once.
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